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 - Bremer 'knew of abuse in November', Iraqi minister says - Iraq

    Bremer 'knew of abuse in November', Iraqi minister says

    FORMER Iraqi human rights minister Abdel Basset Turki said today US overseer Paul Bremer knew in November that Iraqi prisoners were being abused in US detention centres.

    "In November I talked to Mr Bremer about human rights violations in general and in jails in particular. He listened but there was no answer. At the first meeting, I asked to be allowed to visit the security prisoners, but I failed," Turki said.

    "I told him the news. He didn't take care about the information I gave him."

    The coalition had no immediate comment about Turki's meeting with Bremer.

    The minister, whose resignation was formally accepted by the coalition yesterday, said he told Bremer about his meetings with former detainees.

    "The prisoners I spoke to, they told me about how Iraqi prisoners were left in the sun on US bases for hours, prevented to pray and wash and left for two days on a chair and kicked at Abu Gharib," he said.

    That was a reference to the largest prison in the country, located outside Baghdad, where a US Army inquiry found guards humiliated detainees, forced them to strip naked and perform mock fellatio and other sexual activities.

    Since January, 17 people have been implicated in the scandal, including the general who ran the prison system in Iraq. Pictures of the abuse obtained by media outlets last week have caused outrage around the world.

    But Turki said he had not been aware of the activities uncovered in the US Army probe when he met Bremer.

    That enquiry was initiated after a US soldier in the prison stepped forward and informed the army's Criminal Investigation Division some time after November 1.

    The top US commander in Iraq, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, then ordered a full criminal and administrative investigation that led to the suspension of 17 soldiers and officers.

    A third investigation is now examining whether intelligence officers or civilian contractors encouraged the abuse to weaken prisoners ahead of interrogations.

    Turki said he had also raised concerns about prisoner abuse to the International Committee of the Red Cross, but they refused to share information with him.

    Turki resigned from his post on April 8 in anger over the US military offensives on Najaf and Fallujah and it was officially accepted yesterday by the coalition, the human rights ministry said today.

    The US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has cited human rights as a motivating factor in the invasion last spring to oust the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein.

    The coalition demanded human rights protections be inserted into the transitional law that is expected to govern Iraq until a permanent constitution is drafted by the end of next year.

    But the scenes of intense street fighting when US forces assaulted Fallujah on April 5, in a hunt for insurgents who brutally murdered four US contractors, triggered revulsion among pro-coalition Iraqis.

    source: AFP - May 16, 2004


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